What Fall Semester Might Look Like For Law Students

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing law schools across the nation to switch to online classrooms, many students are now left wondering: how much longer?

Stephanie Francis Ward, of the ABA Journal, recently spoke to experts on what law schools might look like this fall.

PRIORITIZING HEALTH & SAFETY

While many law deans would prefer to have in-person classes resume this fall, the reality is that the transition will be slow and dependent on the COVID-19 environment.

“We have to do what is best for the health of our students and faculty, and I am sure that in the pandemic, regulatory bodies will be reasonable about this,” Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, tells the ABA Journal.

Additionally, many law deans are cognizant of making plans that meet the ABA’s Distance Education Standard, which limits the number of course credits law students may receive online.

The ABA recently loosed the rules around that standard to give law schools flexibility in adopting temporary changes to their law programs. The ABA issued a guidance memo in February outlining actions that law schools can take given the pandemic.

“It’s the school’s responsibility to operate in compliance with the standards,” Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director for accreditation and legal education, tells Law.com. “That has been amplified by the guidance memo. We think that guidance memo gives schools ample room to make accommodations that should allow for a considerable amount of online teaching. Schools are free to do that within the language of the guidance memo.”

A HYBRID MODEL

As for the fall semester, many law school deans are predicting a hybrid-model of in-person and remote classroom options.

Law schools say they want to give students the choice and freedom to decide how they want to attend classes.

“It’s very likely we’ll end up with some sort of hybrid model with some form of social distancing in a residential program,” Craig Boise, the dean of New York’s Syracuse University College of Law, tells the ABA Journal. “The very nature of a university is the opposite of social distancing, and how you lower the risks associated with the coronavirus and still allow for some interaction is not clear.”

Sources: ABA Journal, Tipping the Scales, American Bar AssociationLaw.com

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